Last Monday, we identified that whippets’ origins lay with the humble miners in the North of England, who bred them for racing (as a form of entertainment and an excuse for betting), as well as for hunting (to feed the family). But it wasn’t only the whippets’ ability to provide meat for the pot that made them so loved by their people. It was also their gentle nature, devotion and need for closeness, which made them trustworthy around children.
Ask any whippet owner, and they will tell you that whippets do not like to lie by themselves. Put however many whippets you want in one room, and you’ll find all of them piled up, snoozing in your comfiest chair within the hour. And where there’s a single whippet in the house (like George), he’ll look to cuddle up close to anything soft, warm and, preferably, alive.
So what’s that got to do with kids? Well, everything, really.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but England is a wet and windy country. It rains a lot, and the damp and wind combined make the air feel chilly. The cold gets worse as you go up North, due to the lower temperatures and stronger winds. Imagine what it must have been like for the poor miners of the 19th century, who very often did not have the means to heat their houses in the winter. And now imagine what it must have been like for their little children. They needed water bottles to keep warm. That’s where whippets stepped in.
The miners knew they could trust their dogs with their children, so they allowed them to jump under the covers and curl up against their tummies. Of course, the whippets were more than happy to oblige, and the kids didn’t complain either. They just tucked their little noses into their pups’ soft fur and drifted away, snuggly warm.
You may be tempted to believe that this is just an old wives’ tale, but it’s not. Whippets did, very often, serve as hot water bottles back in the old days, and I think it was a great idea. There’s something really nice about having a whippet in your bed. I don’t know if it’s because of their soft fur and warm body, or because they are such sweet creatures, but I know that I – like all other whippet owners I know – love it.
Although he’s got his own comfortable bed in our room, George likes to ‘visit’ us at night. Maybe he gets cold, or maybe he feels lonely… Whatever the reason, he sneaks under our duvet – always head first and always in the middle – and curls up with his back against my stomach. Or his dad’s stomach, he likes to change sides. He stays there for about half an hour, and then he’s off to Brianna’s room. He digs his way under her blanket and settles until the morning, when he comes to wake us up. Sometimes, if we get up first, we find him squeezed between his sister and the back of the bed, with her arms wrapped around him. Her very own hot water bottle. They look sweet and happy, and it melts my heart. It also makes me realise how lucky we are to share our lives with and be loved by a whippet.